Product Lifecycle Management
For any product or service, your sales team operates within your customers’ product lifecycle. Most often and very common, selling techniques focus on implied needs and try to convert them into explicit needs. This needs-analysis, fact-finding process does uncover potential gaps, or problems that the customer has or is experiencing; however, the questionnaire process only touches the surface, rather than root-cause. Instead, your sales professionals need to think in terms of downstream product applications—mainly, the products’ performance in the field.
In general, product lifecycles (PL) are composed of five stages: design, introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. A products' useful life in the field is ultimately determined by its design and how it was manufactured. For example, a HVAC unit that is engineered with strict tolerances and using high quality parts and components, will outperform a unit with marginal design and parts. In fact, the former could exceed the latter by multiples ROI. Superior-designed products will cost more, but the total cost of ownership will be much lower than poorly manufactured products—the long-run cost/benefit verses the short-run savings on price.
Using the same HVAC example, end-user customers (or buyers) will spend hours in Internet product research before contacting a sales professional. They search and read products reviews and ratings while asking questions such as: How durable and reliable is the product? How long will this product last? The answers to these questions are derived from customer comments—actual end-users that have operated or used the product through-out its lifecycle.
A great example is car tires. There are many customer reviews and recommendations, from new tires just installed to tires that are worn-out. Not surprising, a buyers’ decision will most often be made from this data (Internet content). In fact, 87% of e-commerce shoppers believe social media plays a vital role in their shopping decisions (Adweek, 2018). And, 78% of online shoppers value the availability of product reviews by other shoppers (NPR/Marist, 2018). In addition, 50% of consumers visit local businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews (BrightLocal, 2018).
End-User Customer Behaviors
As noted, your customers’ behavior continuous to evolve and Internet research is more common than you may think, so don’t underestimate omnichannel marketing. The fact that they will most likely visit your website after reading favorable reviews is noteworthy and should be a top priority of your marketing and sales plan (SWOT analysis). Internet research on products and companies will only become more prevalent, as your competitors see the value of generating and publishing online content.
Universities and colleges have recently added degrees in data science and business intelligence. The Internet holds valuable insights and your competitors are mining, collating, and analyzing information to design new products and services and to find solutions to complex business issues. They explore the Internet for feedback on product performance, both on their own and competitors. They use the 6V data model—volume, variety, velocity, veracity, validity, and volatility—to design predictive and prescriptive models to forecast with high levels of accuracy. An example may include the success of a new product launch and acceptance.
End-User Customer Experience
The Internet is a go-to platform for consumers to vent their opinions and tell their stories on products, services, and companies. Your products’ lifecycle is now affected and influenced through digital technologies and Internet platforms. Now and in the future, the extent to which you produce and publish online content will determine whether your products and services will reach or exceed planned goals in sales and profit.
When a product moves through the product lifecycle and gains market acceptance, there will be increase in Internet postings of customer reviews and ratings. These comments can either increase or decrease sales. They can also lengthen or shorten the products’ lifecycle. In addition, the number of reviews also has a direct affect on a products' financial outcome. For example, if there are two competing brands with same-like price and similar features, the product with the most reviews will most likely be chosen—as long as the ratings are somewhat equal, of course.
So, it is absolutely vital to understand your buyers’ point-of-entry and source-of-entry when they begin and end their research that ultimately leads to making a purchase—the Internet is now part of their decision-making activity and process. The question, “How long will this product last?” relates directly to the product lifecycle. End-users desire products and services that are durable and can meet or exceed their expectations every time they use the product or engage in your service—the farther the gap of what a customer bought verses what a customer received will most likely be a negative review and posted on the Internet.
As a result, your salespeople require training to understand where and how your customers are being influenced by your competitors’ Internet content. They will need to understand what is important within the business model of The customer experience through-out the product lifecycle. Salespeople are encouraged to sell based on the performance of product and service, whether that is durability, reliability, or dependability, these downstream attributes will be the main topics of discussion and Internet reviews by end-users. So it is very important to understand what do your end-users experience when engaged in your products and your competitors’ products—the long-run cost/benefit.
In addition, they will need to understand how the emergence of new technologies affect their customers’ perception as it relates to the three attributes. For example, if ABC competitor launches a new Human Machine Interface (HMI) that eliminates water entry by direct spray, this new design with have a direct impact on Internet reviews—the new HMI will be a topic of discussion on platforms and blogs, and with time, you will need to either duplicate or exceed the technology. The new HMI boost in attribute performance is definitely what your customers are willing to pay for—perhaps even at a premium price. As such, salespeople need to focus on downstream selling practices that relate to end-user attributes.